S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq drop as inflation expectations rise, retail sales weaken

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For My Money, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Stocks fell in afternoon trading on Wall Street Friday as investors weighed the latest updates on inflation expectations, consumer spending and corporate earnings.

A report showing U.S. consumers raised their expectations for future inflation hurt markets worldwide, offering another signal the Federal Reserve may have to continue aggressively hiking interest rates to temper stubbornly hot inflation. The strategy raises the risk of a recession.

The S&P 500 fell 1.7% as of 1:05 p.m. Eastern. The decline marks another sharp reversal in a very volatile week. The benchmark index was up as much as 1.2% in early trading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 258 points, or 0.9%, to 29,779 and the Nasdaq fell 2.2%.

Volatile times

Trading has been unsettled all week and was especially volatile on Thursday after a government report showed that inflation remains very hot. Major U.S. indexes staged their biggest comeback in years on Thursday in a reversal from steep morning losses.

“I don’t think that (the rally) technically or fundamentally means anything because a whole lot hasn’t changed,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer at Defiance ETFs. “I don’t think we’re likely to see any sense of direction or stability in the near term.”

Investors have been looking for any sign that could allow the Fed to eventually ease up on its interest rate increases. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said Americans’ expectations for future inflation plays a big role in setting interest rates, because a runaway there could create a much more dangerous, self-fulfilling spiral.

The central bank has already raised its benchmark interest rate four times this year, with the last two increases by three-quarters of a percentage point. Wall Street expects another raise of three-quarters of a percentage point at its next meeting in November.

Stubborn inflation, earnings and data

Inflation, though cooling in some areas of the economy, remains stubbornly hot overall. A survey from the University of Michigan on Friday showed that consumers raised their expectations for future inflation. It also showed that overall consumer confidence remains surprisingly strong despite high prices on a wide range of goods.

Bond yields rose after the Michigan report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 4.02% from 3.86% shortly before the report came out. The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to track expectations for future Fed action, rose to 4.50% from 4.40% just before the report came out.

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Wall Street is also reviewing the latest earnings reports for more clues about how companies are dealing with inflation.

Several big banks were bright spots in the market. JPMorgan Chase rose 3% after reporting earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street forecasts. Wells Fargo rose 3.6% after it reported strong revenue.

UnitedHealth Group rose 1.8% after raising its profit forecast for the year.

Technology stocks were biggest weights on the market. Chipmaker Nvidia fell 5.1%.

U.S. crude oil prices fell 3.2% and weighed down energy stocks. Chevron fell 2.4%.

Markets in Europe were higher after British Prime Minister Liz Truss has abandoned a planned cut to corporation taxes, scrapping a key part of an economic plan that set off weeks of market and political turmoil.

A government report showed that the pace of sales at U.S. retailers was unchanged in September from August as rising prices for rent and food chipped away at money available for other things. The report was worse than economists anticipated.

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